As the small television in his tiny Fenway Park office showed extra innings between Detroit and Texas, Yankee manager Joe Girardi knew the challenge lying ahead for his team.
“I’ll give the Dennis Green line,” Girardi said. “They are what we what thought they were.”
Though Girardi invoked that line with much less rage than Green did as coach of the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals in 2006, the Rangers were trying to improve the best record in the game to 13-3. They did a few minutes after Girardi finished speaking with the media, but don’t count him as being surprised at the Rangers’ quick start.
“They went and signed another starter who is supposed to be very good,” Girardi said. “They improved their bullpen at the end of last year and they’ve always had a good offensive team.”
“I would think [they would be tough]. We saw what Texas did early on, scoring eight in the first inning [Saturday]. So if you’re not sharp early on, it can hurt you.”
If there’s one advantage to last night’s game with the Red Sox being rained out roughly five hours before the scheduled first pitch, it is that the Yankees can leave much earlier than initially planned for three tough games with the two-time defending American League champion Rangers. Those games will precede a three-game series with the Tigers next weekend at Yankee Stadium.
Besides not arriving in the early morning hours in Texas, three other benefits emerged from the rainout.
It allows them to give their bullpen rest for a Rangers’ lineup that has seen opposing starting pitchers last at least seven innings just three times while leading the majors in batting average (.307), runs (91) and slugging percentage (.508). Michael Young, Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli are all leading or near the top of the league in those categories.
“You look at the league leaders and they’re amongst a lot of them,” Girardi said. “Napoli had a great second half last year and it has continued. He’s an explosive hitter. When he was with the Angels, we saw him hit a lot of home runs and he’s just become a better hitter.”
It also allowed them to start CC Sabathia, who turned in his best start of the year last week against Minnesota and on the international level it set up a Tuesday matchup between Hiroki Kuroda and Yu Darvish that is sure to make some people in Japan slightly late for work Wednesday.
Darvish has won two of his three starts. He gave up five runs in his first two major league innings, but since then he has allowed two runs in 15 2/3 innings.
His best start might have been Thursday in Detroit. Despite walking five in 6 1/3 innings, Darvish gave up just two hits and held sluggers Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder hitless in a combined five at-bats
“He’s got seven pitches and the catchers don’t have seven fingers,” Girardi said. “Fastball, sinker, he’s got a four-seamer. He’ll cut it, so there’s three different fastballs. He’s got a curveball and he’s got a split. He’s got a change. I have not seen the changeup in the first two games. You got to have a lot of fingers.”
» Michael Pineda will see team physician Dr. Chris Ahmad Monday in New York. Pineda, who has been on the DL with shoulder tendinitis, suffered a setback in an extended spring training game Saturday. He threw 15 pitches and was stopped after feeling soreness in the back of his shoulder.
» Andy Pettitte is slated for a minor league start Wednesday night with Double-A Trenton. He is expected to increase his pitch count to 80 to 85 pitches.
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.